Express steams ahead after trial romp
Kevin Prendergast is likely to send Dunboyne Express straight for the Irish 2,000 Guineas after the three-year-old bounced back to form on his seasonal debut at Leopardstown.
The classy colt, which was found to be ill after losing his unbeaten record in the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster in October, enjoyed a facile success in the Leopardstown 2,000 Guineas Trial.
His task was made easier when his main market rival, the John Oxx-trained Cocozza, was withdrawn after sitting down in the stalls, delaying the start by 10 minutes. Whipless made the running from Exodus, before Declan McDonogh pounced aboard Prendergast's charge to score by a length and three-quarters from Exodus.
"That was a satisfactory performance. He did it well but it would have been nice if the other horse had run," Prendergast said. "The run should bring him on a good bit and the run of Master Of Hounds on Saturday (had form with Dunboyne Express as a two-year-old and second at Meydan) was no harm."
Prendergast completed a double when Celtic Dane (14/1) got up to deny favourite Gimli's Rock by a short head in the Follow Leopardstown on Facebook Handicap, giving Samantha Bell her first winner from just three rides.
Empowering (11/2) landed a gamble to secure an O'Brien family triumph in the Leopardstown 1,000 Guineas Trial. The filly was ridden by Joseph O'Brien, trained by his father Aidan and owned by his mother Anne-Marie.
The 1lb overweight put up by last year's joint champion apprentice made no difference as he dictated matters from the start with an enterprising ride to gain a win that will see his claim reduced to 3lb. Stablemate Wild Wind stayed on well to take second, one and three-quarter lengths behind, with Oxx's History Note a short-head back in third.
"Joseph gave her a lovely ride and she's a filly to look forward to. She's in the English Guineas and that's very possible," O'Brien said.
Despite the disappointment of Cocozza, Johnny Murtagh celebrated his return as number one jockey to the Aga Khan and Oxx with a near 38/1 double on Mesariya and Haziyna.
Mesariya earned a 25/1 quote for the Epsom Oaks when making a successful debut in the opening fillies maiden. Showing no signs of jet-lag after riding in the Dubai World Cup on Saturday, Murtagh enjoyed an easy victory on the daughter of Sinndar.
Haziyna (9/2) ran out an easy winner of the Leopardstown Family Fun Racedays Handicap, quickening clear on the final turn to open her account by three and a half lengths from Flavia Tatiana.
There was a shock result when 33/1 outsider Best Hello foiled the O'Brien hotpot Apache in the concluding maiden for trainer Paul Deegan.
At Downpatrick, Fosters Cross and Ruby Walsh outclassed his four rivals in the conditions hurdle. Walsh was content to take his time on the Dr Massini gelding but once asked to go about his business, the response from the nine-year-old was impressive as he strode on to beat Wikaala, with former Champion Chaser Newmill back in third.
"That was a well-deserved win. His last good run was at Fairyhouse and he didn't disgrace himself since when the ground was gone for him," said successful trainer Tom Mullins.
Hoochie Mama -- owned and trained by John Coleman -- made most of her light weight to land the handicap chase under Alan Crowe, while the Aidan Whelan-trained King's Parade came home best under Keith Donoghue to prevail in the opening juvenile hurdle.